Reuters Bureau Chief Flees Country After Threats from Shiite Militia Groups

Reuters Iraq Bureau Chief fled the country this week after he was threatened on Facebook. Shiite militias were upset with his reporting on looting in Tikrit.
iranian militia tikrit
Iranian-backed Shia militiamen made up the bulk of the Iraqi government’s forces in the Tikrit operation. (BBC)

Reuters reported:

The Baghdad bureau chief for Reuters has left Iraq after he was threatened on Facebook and denounced by a Shi’ite paramilitary group’s satellite news channel in reaction to a Reuters report last week that detailed lynching and looting in the city of Tikrit.

The threats against journalist Ned Parker began on an Iraqi Facebook page run by a group that calls itself “the Hammer” and is believed by an Iraqi security source to be linked to armed Shi’ite groups. The April 5 post and subsequent comments demanded he be expelled from Iraq. One commenter said that killing Parker was “the best way to silence him, not kick him out.”

Three days later, a news show on Al-Ahd, a television station owned by Iranian-backed armed group Asaib Ahl al-Haq, broadcast a segment on Parker that included a photo of him. The segment accused the reporter and Reuters of denigrating Iraq and its government-backed forces, and called on viewers to demand Parker be expelled.

The pressure followed an April 3 report by Parker and two colleagues detailing human rights abuses in Tikrit after government forces and Iranian-backed militias liberated the city from the Islamic State extremist group. Two Reuters journalists in the city witnessed the lynching of an Islamic State fighter by Iraqi federal police. The report also described widespread incidents of looting and arson in the city, which local politicians blamed on Iranian-backed militias.

A Reuters spokeswoman said the agency stood by the accuracy and fairness of its report. Facebook, acting on a request from Reuters, removed a series of threatening posts this week…

Michael Lavallee, a U.S. State Department spokesperson, said: “We condemn all forms of intimidation and violence toward the media as the protection of journalistic freedoms is an essential aspect of all democratic societies.”

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